The brutal rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua had attracted attention of the entire India. The widespread criticism from throughout the country had led the Mehbooba Mufti government in Jammu & Kashmir to form an investigating committee in a hurry. The investigation team which was changed thrice owing to charges of malpractices and use of force on would be witnesses, however botched up the case even further. The Mehbooba Mufti government too did not rectify its mistakes and backed its chosen team. The number of witnesses filed by the investigating team rose from the already high 130 to 221 in a matter of few months. These many witnesses from a small village whose total population does not exceed 1500, was a wonderful feat to achieve. The investigating team and the government too praised themselves over the number of witnesses they had been able to procure. Coercion was used in procuring this tall figure of witnesses and it became apparent on 8th of June when the prosecution could not present even one witness in the Pathankot Court where trials are being held.
Supreme Court of India had shifted the trial to Pathankot after the victim’s family pleaded for the same. The trials for the Kathua case began on May 31 and on 8th of June the court had directed the prosecution side to present almost 20 witnesses before the court. The court had earlier, on Thursday, framed the charges of rape and murder against seven of the eight accused and had fixed Friday for evidence to be put before the court. The trial for the eighth accused who is a juvenile is yet to be started. Not even a single witness appeared in the Pathankot court on Friday. District and sessions judge Tejwinder Singh who is hearing the trials was angered by this and he has summoned the Jammu division Senior Superintendent of Police, (Crime) to appear before the court on Monday by 11 am in the morning. The failure to present witnesses in the court could be attributed to the fact that most of the witnesses had been forcibly asked by the investigating team to appear as witnesses in the case. Their absence on the day when they were supposed to give statements in the court could mean one of two things, either they were forced to appear as witness by the police team or the police team has taken a casual approach to the hearing process. The prosecution team has succeeded in wasting the time of the court and is now appearing reluctant to prove the accused guilty in Kathua case.
Jammu and Kashmir police had already faced many charges of torture and abuse by the Hindu residents of Kathua. The villagers had been forced to flee from their homes owing to investigating teams’ intimidating tactics. This was exactly the reason why the Kathua residents had demanded a CBI inquiry in the case. The Jammu and Kashmir investigating team has proved that it is neither competent nor motivated enough to bring the case to an early closure. Pathankot court’s decision to summon the SSP is justified and many more such summons are bound to follow as the witnesses who were forced are likely not to appear in the upcoming trials too. The case should be handed over to the CBI as soon as possible to ensure the accused are swiftly and accurately dealt with.